Mental Health and the Three Gunas
In Ayurveda, the mind is known as manas. Manas is made up of three traits—the three gunas. These gunas are sattva, rajas, and tamas. Sattva is associated with qualities such as peace, happiness, self-control, wisdom, patience, truth, and spiritual clarity. Rajas is defined by qualities such as passion, activity, dynamism, changeability, anger, greed, anxiety, and violence. Finally, tamas is associated with inertia, lethargy, restfulness, selfishness, heaviness, indecision, and depression. When either rajas or tamas predominate, mental disorders appear.
So, in Ayurvedic thought, we should always aim to be in a sattvic state of mind. This can be cultivated by eating healthy, calming foods such as ghee, basmati rice, almonds, legumes, fruits, and lightly cooked vegetables. Furthermore, overly stimulating and heavy foods such as garlic, onion, green chiles, meat, fried foods, processed foods, and alcohol, should be avoided.
Other practices to maintain a sattvic state of mind include waking up and going to bed early, as well as practicing tongue scraping, yoga, and meditation. Ayurvedic massage therapy, aromatherapy, chanting, and taking certain herbs also help to cultivate sattva.
Additionally, Ayurveda has a technique similar to Western psychotherapy, known as sattvavajay, which translates to “conquest of the mind.” Here a practitioner guides a patient verbally, helping them replace challenging thought patterns with more positive ones.